Embattled Steelers WR Martavis Bryant shows how 'special' he can be
INDIANAPOLIS — As Martavis Bryant methodically peeled off his socks in the visitors' locker room Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium not long after the Steelers beat the Colts, a blood-red spot over a nasty rugburn was revealed.
“I hate (artificial) turf,” Bryant said to a teammate.
Maybe. But Bryant loved being back on the field — any field — with his team.
“It felt great to win,” he said of his first game in 21 days. “It's been a long road, and obviously I have got a long way to go and a lot of work ahead, so it's good to get this win. But it's on to the next one.”
Bryant figures to be part of the next one (Thursday vs. Tennessee) after he had five touches during the Steelers' 20-17 win. Three of those were critical plays that led (directly or indirectly) to points in a game that marked Bryant's return to the lineup. Bryant served a de facto one-game suspension Oct. 29 at Detroit as coach Mike Tomlin's discipline for negative social media comments Bryant made about teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster.
On Sunday, Bryant's first significant play was a 13-yard catch that put the Steelers into field-goal range in the final minute of the first half for their first points. Early in the fourth quarter, he tied the score when a caught a laser from Ben Roethlisberger on a 2-point conversion play from the 7-yard line
But Bryant's most notable play was on a third down from the Steelers 31 with less than a minute to play in a tie game. He ran a shallow crossing route, caught a pass and sped down the right sideline for a 19-yard gain that put the Steelers in a position to go for the win.
Tomlin called it “enormous.”
“It was one of the routes that we work on in the 2-minute (drills in practice),” Bryant said, “and we have been working on it numerous times, and it just paid off for us in the critical moment.”
Kind of like how Bryant made plays in a critical game: one in which he returned, was welcomed back and re-assimilated himself into the offense.
“Martavis is going to be Martavis,” running back Le'Veon Bell said. “We know what he can do. He's a special player ... We're always happy to have Martavis.”
Publicly, the Steelers players maintained that stance — they're always happy to have Martavis — despite a series of well-documented off-field incidents. By all accounts, Bryant made good with Smith-Schuster and the rest of his teammates while serving on the scout team during the week he did not play and then during what were described as strong practice weeks over the bye and in preparation for the Colts.
“I hope that he just builds his confidence,” Roethlisberger said. “I know I've got confidence in him, so hopefully we just see more and more every week.”